It has become increasingly apparent to me, over the past two years, that there is perhaps no pop culture fanbase more collectively obsessed than the Glee fans. But I also have to profess that there is perhaps no more miserable fan existence than that of a "Gleek."
In 2009, Glee took to the stage, with every glimmer of potential on our TV screens, and a phenomenon was born. Anyone who ever felt like a misfit in high school (read: nearly everyone) took notice, and went about devoting their attention to this Little Show That Could. What's not to like? It's a classic underdog story, with singing and dancing - equal parts snark, and heart. This is all rounded out with a talented cast bringing to life characters we all can relate to, and voilà! Glee had a bright beginning, and Glee fans fell head over heels.
But this love affair has unfortunately turned sour, as time has worn on and Glee's existence as a television-show-turned-pop-culture-phenomenon has grated - and degraded. Many hallmarks of the original episodes have trickled away, and in its stead we've gotten an influx of themed episodes, inflated musical numbers, poorly-written storylines, and a complete and utter disregard for any continuity in developing the characters we fell in love with.
Glee fans have turned bitter in the wake of this breakup, upset at dropped plotlines, ignored friendships, ill-devised romantic relationships, and the general wealth of potential that's been completely squandered as episodes have come and gone. And so, we complain. Everyone knows that Glee fans love to complain - because there's a lot to complain about.
But at the same time, we can't stop watching.
It'd be one thing if we all recognized the sharp decline in quality, the chilly feel of an old friend's closed heart, and simply gave it up. Just walked away, with as much of our dignity as we could muster. But we can't. We want so badly to be in love with the show we once knew that we tune in every Tuesday night in hopes we'll be greeted by our old friend - only to have our hopes dashed, yet again. Over, and over again.
And the only thing to get us through it is shared grumbling, and uncovering the tiniest moments to make us happy - only further fueling our obsessions by forcing us to focus on the inconsequent minutiae. When we all know, truthfully, that mere particulars do not a quality television show make. But it's all we have.
In short: we are a sad, masochistic bunch. Because not only do we stand by a show that resembles only a shadow of its original distinction, but we still shell out our money for the soundtracks, the merchandise, the concert tickets, and the movie tickets to see the same concert in 3D. Not only do we keep giving Ryan Murphy and Fox the ratings they want to see, but we also open up our wallets and hand over our cash as a thank you for breaking our hearts every week.
Meanwhile, we're all complaining about how the show has sold out, starting reality competitions and covering Ke$ha and Rebecca Black for no apparent reason. We gripe about the apparent inability for the writers to pen any storyline in a remotely sophisticated way, and ask ourselves the bitter questions every Glee fan poses at least once. What happened to Quinn's baby? Shouldn't she talk about it at some point? Why did Matt Rutherford move away? Why didn't he have any lines? Who's this Blaine guy, and why does he have more solos than Tina and Quinn? Are Mike and Tina only together because they're Asian? And, while we're at it, why do Mike, Tina, and Mercedes not get any storylines, huh? Do the writers know they're being both a little bit sexist and a little bit racist? Why does Rachel keep going back to Finn after countless heartbreaks? Is Quinn supposed to act like a lesbian? Are the writers aware that Mr. Schuester is a terrible teacher and maybe also a terrible human being? Can't they give Sue something else to do other than try to destroy the glee club? I love Chris Colfer, but why is Kurt's character so much more developed than the others? Why did we ever spend time at Dalton when there was not a single storyline there? Why the hell was Charice ever there in the first place? Why have we never met Rachel's gay dads? Is it too much to ask for Mercedes to have a boyfriend? Why does Artie suddenly and inexplicably act like an asshole? How many times can Finn choose football over glee club before it gets frustrating? Can anyone accomplish anything at that school without resorting to blackmail?
And we go crazy. We weep over the wasted potential, and hand over cash to buy everything Glee in our sights. We tune in every Tuesday and somehow are hopeful every time, even though we know better. So you see, our fan existence is miserable. The Glee fan's lament is a mournful, self-loathing song, a naive and desperate plea for the good old days, a bitter hymn of broken promises and misplaced trust, and, most unfortunately, the death knell for our own sanity and self-preservation.
One day, we'll stop watching this show. When we don't love the cast so much, or after we stop trying to build ourselves a bubble to live in, with episodes like "Preggers," and "Wheels." But until then, we will mope through the rest of Glee because we can't find a way to quit this show. It buried itself in our hearts at the start, and until the finish, it will remain there, even if it completely destroys us in the process.
So maybe we'll just stop watching when we die. And you know that somehow, somewhere, Ryan Murphy is laughing triumphantly at that thought.